Russian special forces have arrested a cult leader who claims he is Jesus Christ.
Wispy-haired Sergei Torop, 59, was bundled into a helicopter after dozens of heavily armed troops stormed a remote compound called Sun City.
The former traffic cop – known as Vissarion – and his closest aide Vadim Redkin, a former rock musician, were reportedly detained and flown away under armed guard.
Torop became a Siberian sect leader after claiming he was reborn in 1990 as the literal reincarnation of the son of God and has abolished Christmas.
He has been dubbed “Vissarion the Teacher” and the “Jesus of Siberia”, reportedly has two wives with six children and has followers in several other European countries including Germany.
It was not immediately clear if other cult followers were detained.
The group – who are banned from smoking and alcohol – has been in Siberia for years and it is unclear why the Russian authorities acted now in an early morning raid.
Footage shows a large military-style operation with four helicopters raiding the Messianic former Red Army conscript’s compound.
The operation appeared to involve the Russian National Guard, a force under the command of Vladimir Putin, but also involved the FSB security service and the Investigative Committee.
Videos released by sect members also showed masked special forces Spetsnaz officers with combat machine guns at the group’s territory in remote Kuraginsky district of Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia.
Other officers appeared to be in plain clothes.
Local resident Alexander Staroverov said: “There are 50 avtozaks (cells on wheels), 50 buses, an ambulance, and medical workers.”
He added Torop and Redkin “were put into helicopters and taken away in an unknown direction”.
Three years ago the cult leader told the BBC: “We have a school of noble maidens here.
“We’re preparing girls to become future wives, future brides for worthy men.
“She has to understand not to rise above the man, not to be proud of her independence but to be shy, inconspicuous and weak.”
He rejected his first wife, marrying a 19 year old who had lived with him since the age of seven.
He lives in a comfortable chalet while his followers reside in wooden huts in one of Russia’s coldest regionswith temperatures sinking to minus 50C in winter.
Torop had an awakening after he was fired as a night shift traffic cop in the Siberian town of Minusinsk, he has claimed.
God had sent him to Earth to teach mankind about the evils of war and the havoc we were wreaking on the environment, he claimed.
The cult leader abolished Christmas, replacing it with the anniversary of the date of his own first sermon, August 18.
He claims that Mary, mother of Jesus, is his own mother.
He claims to have 5,000 followers of whom several hundred live in wooden huts in the remote ‘Sun City’ camp at Petropavlovka, some 2,600 miles east of Moscow.
One estimate said there were 90 families at the site raided today by the authorities.
Other followers of the “messiah” live in villages nearby.
He heads what is known as the Church of the Last Testament, and he has written a ten volume ‘sequel to the Bible’.
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